Thursday, June 26, 2008

Top Ten Public Intellectuals all Muslim

I'm interested in the impact the Web has on the promotion of in-group ties? Does access to everything make us more cosmopolitan or does it bind us closer to our reference groups? Here's one argument for viewing things contextually. The process by which Foreign Policy created their list of the top 100 intellectuals reveals a strong desire on the part of many educated Muslims to have public intellectuals that share their faith tradition be recognized as influential. Here's a brief description of Foreign Policy's methodology:

No one spread the word as effectively as the man who tops the list. In early May, the Top 100 list was mentioned on the front page of Zaman, a Turkish daily newspaper closely aligned with Islamic scholar Fethullah G├╝len. Within hours, votes in his favor began to pour in. His supporters—typically educated, upwardly mobile Muslims—were eager to cast ballots not only for their champion but for other Muslims in the Top 100. Thanks to this groundswell, the top 10 public intellectuals in this year’s reader poll are all Muslim. The ideas for which they are known, particularly concerning Islam, differ significantly. It’s clear that, in this case, identity politics carried the day.

It seems clear to me that the Web, in this case Foreign Policy's online poll, taps into the need of a certain subset of a entho-religious group to re-frame the way they are perceived by "the rest" of the world community. Then again, educated, upwardly mobile Muslims might just, on average, be more avid readers of Foreign Policy?

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